The maritime industry is ripe with opportunity for women although they account for only 2% of the total workforce in the industry.
30-year-old Elizabeth Marami is among the few women in the male-dominated industry, making history by becoming Kenya’s first female marine pilot.
She recently hit a new career milestone after passing Britain’s coast guard exam to be certified as a UK chief officer unlimited/master 3000GT.
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Here is Marami’s story as told by WoK.
Background and education
Although not much is known about her childhood, Marami was born and raised in the coastal city of Mombasa.
While growing up, the marine pilot wanted to do something different; out of the ordinary once she grows up.
After completion of her secondary school education, Marami joined the University of Nairobi (UoN)before moving to Alexandria, Egypt to pursue navigation for 5 years.
“I didn’t want to be ordinary. I wanted to pursue something that would challenge me. So when I heard about a scholarship, I could not resist the temptation to apply. The scholarship would have me leave Kenya for Alexandria, Egypt to study navigation,” she said.
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She moved to Egypt after securing the scholarship even though she had another scholarship to pursue law at UoN.
“The selection process was very competitive and I couldn’t believe it when I was awarded. I had another offer to study law at the University of Nairobi but my mind was set on navigation,” she added.
The course takes 5 years after which the student will get certification from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations (UN) body.
There is also a mandatory requirement of 18 months of sea time for every rise in rank and additional channel training at Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
Nature of her job
Speaking in a past interview, Marami explained that her job is mainly assisting vessels with coming into territorial waters.
The law requires officials onboard a foreign vessel entering a country’s territorial waters or it will not progress to the harbor.
“I am a second officer in command. Foreign ships coming to the Kenyan territorial waters are not allowed to navigate on their own and have to have a Kenyan pilot meet them and help navigate. By doing that, you are taking ‘command’,” Marami explained.
Getting to where she is in the industry was not easy and she almost gave up were it not for an article about Kate McCue, America’s first female captain of a megaton cruise ship.
“I wanted to be the first female captain in the country but the number of times I got turned down made me convince myself that I was okay with an office job
“have had those who have accepted me, helped me become better, and there have been some rejections that stung so hard I almost gave up, but overall I’d say I have certainly grown a thick skin,” Marami said.
On Saturday, December 10, Marami unlocked a new milestone in her career after passing Britain’s coast guard exam to be certified as a UK chief officer unlimited/master 3000GT.
She celebrated the achievement in a post on her Twitter page.
“It was one of the best days of my life as I passed my UK coast guard orals exam! I achieved a goal I set out to attain 10 years ago but life short-changed me due to employment rejection onboard ships,” she wrote.
According to Kenya Maritime Authority acting director-general John Omingo, Marami is the first Kenyan woman to attain the certification.
“We have made strides as a country, we now have a certificated Kenyan woman chief officer. This is a good achievement, she has opened the doors for other women to work in cruise ships, we now have others emulating her,” Omingo said.
Against the Tide
Marami runs Against the Tide, an initiative seeking to see a reasonable gender balance in the maritime industry.
“Although in its infancy, I want to advocate for policies that favour both genders and allows for equal opportunities in access to opportunities in the industry
“I also intend to mentor young girls into believing in themselves and having the courage to get into the profession. I have been speaking to students at various schools about the importance of believing in themselves,” she said.